24-year old Bobby Parnell's career looked destined to one place earlier this season—the bullpen. It's been rather uncommon for pitchers to switch from reliever to starter mid-season. Normally it's the other way around (see Tim Redding).
But the recent rash of Mets injuries and child births gave Bobby Parnell his "dream" of starting in the big leagues. In his first what I call "official" start (did anyone honestly expect him to go anymore than four innings last weekend in San Diego?) tonight, Bobby went six shutout innings, only allowing three hits, and walking none. Talk about the anti-Ollie.
I know it's only one start. And I know it was against the offensively-challenged San Francisco Giants (even though they are atop the NL Wild Card standings at the moment). But there are reasons to be excited over Parnell's outing.
First off, he's only 24-years-old and turning 25 in September. I know age doesn't have too much to do with it, but if he can turn in a good last seven weeks to the 2009 campaign, the Mets will be going into 2010 with a cheap 25-year-old who they can plug into their rotation and have control of for a reasonable amount of time. This saves money to fill other holes.
Second, he was extremely effective in conserving his pitch count. 84 pitches in six innings is quite extraordinary, especially for a pitcher who for the past three-to-four months has had pitching counts the last thing on his mind, as they are normally not big deals for relievers.
By having a pitcher who can give you six, maybe even seven, solid innings on a consistent basis and save the bullpen for another day is a very valuable commodity throughout the wear and tear of 162 games.
Finally, there were no walks. There are few things in life more frustrating than watching a pitcher consistently walk batters.
I'd rather watch a pitcher get shelled than not give his team a chance to win by walking the ballpark. True, Parnell walked three in his 2.1 inning outing in San Diego, but he also didn't walk any in his three-inning outing against the Cardinals last week.
The main concern of Parnell becoming a starting pitcher is his "lack" of a third pitch. He is currently a sinker/slider pitcher, but it would benefit him to develop more of an off-speed pitch to compliment and set up his other pitches. Reading the scouting reports on Parnell, it seems that he's working on a changeup, but it's not up to major league readiness yet. These reports are from 2008.
I'm not counting on Parnell to be our No. 2 starter going into 2010. Heck, if he could be our fourth starter going into '10 that would be awesome.
But right now, the Mets need to at least plug one of these big holes with an option from within. And Parnell's looking like he may be able and willing to help.
(NOTE: I did not watch the game tonight, only saw highlights and his final line. If anyone did see the game and can comment on his off-speed pitch (if any), please share as a comment!)